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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 42
Kroger OKs Trans-inclusive health care benefits for employees
Section One
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Kroger OKs Trans-inclusive health care benefits for employees

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Kroger Company - the largest supermarket chain in the United States - has agreed to offer its employees Transgender-inclusive health care benefits.

According to Alliance of Kroger, a group of LGBT employees, 'Beginning January 1, 2016, medical procedures, including surgery and drug therapy for gender reassignment, will be covered up to a $100,000 lifetime maximum for eligible associates and their dependents.'

The benefits will be offered by the company insurance plan, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and will not affect health care coverage negotiated by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in its collective bargaining agreements.

About 75% of Kroger employees nationwide are represented by UFCW, including QFC and Fred Meyer employees in Washington.

In all, Kroger owns some 400 stores nationwide and employs 400,000 workers, making it the seventh largest employer in the country.

'I am very pleased indeed that the companies are now offering coverage,' Seattle activist Marsha Botzer told SGN. 'It is the right and fair thing to do.

'This demonstrates how understanding brings equality, because once individuals and companies understand Transgender and gender-nonconforming people are a part of human diversity and not any form of pathology, they see inclusion as simply another empirically supported medical and care need. And a great move to keep productive employees as well! So, cheers for coverage, and cheers for the future!'

Botzer, the founder of Ingersoll Gender Center, has been active in the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare, advocating for Trans-inclusive changes in insurance coverage.

Washington state unions have also been advocating for Trans-inclusive benefits. At the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) in July, delegates passed a resolution promising to remove discriminatory exclusions from their health care policies and to bargain for Trans-inclusive benefits in future collective bargaining.

Tom Geiger, spokesperson for UFCW Local 21, the union that represents QFC and Fred Meyers employees, welcomed the change in Kroger policy.

'We've been an advocate for Trans rights and were part of the effort to get a resolution passed at the recent Washington State Labor Council Convention that included support for Transgender-inclusive health care for union members and members' dependents,' Geiger told SGN.

Getting big nationwide employers like Kroger to agree to Trans-inclusive policies is important because major corporations are often exempt from state nondiscrimination laws, like those that guarantee insurance coverage to Transgender Washingtonians. The largest U.S. corporations often self-insure, or if they offer insurance plans to their employees, as Kroger does, their benefits packages are administered under federal ERISA laws, which set minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry.

'I am pretty excited. I never thought when I came out three years ago that with a little bit of work, I could help make a big change and help so many other people,' Kroger employee Britney McGannon said on her Facebook page. 'I never thought that would happen.'

McGannon has worked at a Kroger store in Cincinnati for 10 years and began transitioning three years ago.

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